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The 10 Best EPs of 2013

Posted by Billy Gil, December 19, 2013 10:33am | Post a Comment

Oft lost in the great “best albums of the year” rush are EPs, those unimposing 18-minute-or-so releases that artists release between albums, to try stuff out or to unload extra songs. While you don’t get the whole enchilada of a full-album statement, EPs are like a great appetizer that leave you wanting more, and 2013 was full of delicious bloomin’ onions. Here are 10 that I liked, in no particular order.

BurialTruant / Rough Sleeper

burial truant rough sleeper amoebaWilliam Emmanuel Bevan makes the kind of music Thom Yorke dreams about, dark, brooding electronic music that blends subgenres like dubstep (the good kind) while sounding like its own thing, future-seeking yet emotional and grimy. He hasn’t had a full-length album since 2007’s great Untrue, but he released several EPs this year, including the recent Rival Dealer 12” and, earlier this year, this release of two 10-plus-minute tracks, the first entrancing and inviting, the second morose and restless. 

 

 

Best CoastFade Away

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Album Picks: Vampire Weekend, Small Black, Eluvium, Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood, Classixx, Wild Nothing

Posted by Billy Gil, May 14, 2013 10:28am | Post a Comment

Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires Of The City

vampire weekend modern vampires of the cityCD $12.98

LP $18.98

Limited Edition LP $19.98

Download $9.98

Every time the world turns against Vampire Weekend, they have a way of turning around and shattering expectations. From the get-go, the band was dogged with Strokes comparisons and scoffs of Ivy League grads pilfering African music while singing about rich people. But none of those things could stop people from enjoying their immensely enjoyable first album, their underrated second one and now their third pop opus, Modern Vampires of the City. It’s low-key like Contra, but Modern Vampires’ hooks are silkier and more ingratiating. “Step” waltzes with a gorgeous collegiate melody, featuring some of the finest singing to date by Ezra Koenig, who’s finally mastered that Paul Simon trill. He also extends his voice beyond its comfort zone, taking on Buddy Holly-style hiccupping and extending his range up and down (aided by digital skewing) while the band rocks a solid shuffle on the cleverly titled “Diane Young.” It’s one of their best singles yet. Koenig’s lyrics, too, retain their wittiness and specificity, though they are open enough to make your own implications — “though we live on the U.S. dollar, you and me we got our own sense of time,” he sings memorably in “Hannah Hunt,” which ends with a beautiful, well-earned climax in which Koenig tears his lungs out belting. The band mostly stays supportive, only going full-tilt on a few songs, like the galloping “Worship You,” which allows Koenig to spit verse at lightning speed, or pulling out grand pop moments in “Unbelievers” and the uber-strange “Ya Hey,” which pairs its intricate melodies with hyper-warped vocal tricks. Modern Vampires doesn’t go for obvious, occasionally obscuring itself in too much oddity and not ripping loose often enough. But few bands at this level are still taking these many chances, and pulling it off more often than not. Vampire Weekend’s freewheeling Modern Vampires of the City firmly perches the band back in the top echelon of bands making music today.

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20 Super Rad Free Downloads from 2012

Posted by Billy Gil, December 20, 2012 05:40pm | Post a Comment

Amoeba.com’s growing free downloads section had a ton of great stuff this year. Here are some highlights.

 

Sufjan Stevens – “Justice Delivers Its Death”

This delicate ballad comes from Sufjan Stevens’ latest Christmas opus, Silver & Gold, Songs for Christmas, though its delicate beauty would fit on any of Stevens’ early, more acoustic releases.

 

Listen

Download

Buy the album

 

 

Pissed Jeans – “Bathroom Laughter”

Pennsylvania punks Pissed Jeans’ latest album, Honeys, is due Feb. 12 on Sub Pop. The first taste from the album is a ferocious blast, with singer Matt Korvette scream-talking lyrics quickly as the band bashes out two-and-a-half minutes of hardcore bliss.

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My Top 50 Albums of 2012

Posted by Billy Gil, December 17, 2012 07:24pm | Post a Comment

50. Purity RingShrines

purity ring shrinesPurity Ring make Cocteau Twins­-style dream pop by way of Salem’s hard-hitting witchhouse on an album more notable for its smooth blending of related genres than for its actual songwriting, but they’ve got a sweet sound nonetheless.

 

 

49. Cold ShowersLove & Regret

Cold Showers Cold Showers’ short and sweet debut heralds the arrival of a great new L.A. band, beaming shoegaze guitars over darkwave synths and goth-style vocals. (Read my review of Cold Showers' show here.)

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Album Picks: Wild Nothing, Swans, Divine Fits, Plus Albums Out Today

Posted by Billy Gil, August 28, 2012 07:37pm | Post a Comment
This is it, we're entering the hot season for new releases. Next week sees the release of new albums from Cat Power, Animal Collective and Deerhoof, to name a few. But plenty of great releases snuck up on us this week too; here are a few of my favorites:

wild nothing nocturneWild Nothing - Nocturne
 
Wild Nothing’s Gemini was a warm, digitally enhaned indie-pop love letter to its inspiration, college rock of the 1980s. Since that release, Wild Nothing’s Jack Tatum has had a couple of releases, the Golden Haze EP and the Nowhere single, that have further proven Tatum an equal to his forebears, and that continues with Nocturne, which sands down any outlier sounds and offers a solidified statement of purpose for Wild Nothing. As you might guess from titles like “Nocturne” and “Midnight Sound,” the album is full of swooning nighttime pop, with swirling, delayed guitars, lovelorn vocals and synth washes lapping underneath it all. While the album’s opening three songs (“Shadow,” “Midnight Song” and “Nocturne) set the tone thematically, the more you listen to Nocturne, the more the shier songs stay with you, like “This Chain Won’t Break,” with its freestyle beat and bassline a weirdly perfect fit to its twee synths and melodies, or “Paradise,” a glorious New Wave totem that sounds like whitewashed memories of an ’80s prom. However, Nocturne doesn’t fall into the trap of sounding overly reverential to the ’80s because Tatum’s songs have become more confident, as he pulls off a refrain like “only Heather makes me feel this way” on the Cure-ish “Only Heather.” Nocturne gets so many things right, with its sneaking melodies, dreamy guitar textures and dreamier lyrics are Tatum’s alone, that everything feels like inspiration rather than pastiche.

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